Part 4: Cal-Hi Sports Preseason 50

Curtis Goins is top returning player from team that won CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division II title. Mark Tennis/ESPNHS

Those that just missed getting into the top 25 include Vacaville, Palma of Salinas and Notre Dame of Sherman Oaks. Check this post as well for writeups through No. 39.

With contributions from Harold Abend and Paul Muyskens, here are the teams ranked from No. 26 through No. 39 in the Cal-Hi Sports preseason overall state football rankings (listed with last year’s win-loss record and coach’s record if available):

26. VACAVILLE 13-1

CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division II champion

Head Coach: Mike Papadopoulos (2011 State Coach of the Year has 70-15 record in seven seasons)

First Game: Friday, Aug. 31 at Valley Christian (San Jose). The Bulldogs defeated the Warriors in San Jose last year 41-27. They also play Marin Catholic and Granite Bay once again this season.

Why This Ranking: There are 11 returning starters from last year's team that won the final 12 games while capturing the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II championship. We also like the fact that quarterback Nic Ardave is back. He had to come into the game against Folsom in the final last year after the starter got hurt and had no problems.

Key Players: To go with Ardave, running back Curtis Goins rushed for 1,456 yards and 17 touchdowns as the Bulldogs gained 83 percent of their yardage, 5,549 in all, along with 79 touchdowns with the running game. Returning linebacker Timmy Scott led the team in tackles with 72 while recording five sacks and senior safety Jacob Te'o made 55 tackles.

27. PALMA (SALINAS) 11-1-1

CIF Central Coast Section Division IV champion

Head Coach: Jeff Carnazzo (114 wins in 13th season)

First Game: Friday, Aug. 24 at Wilcox of Santa Clara. The first four games will set the tone as to whether the Chieftains will look like a serious contender to be the top team in the CCS this season.

Why This Ranking: This is a season Palma fans have been waiting for with multiple three-year starters. The program, however, hasn’t been at the level of Bellarmine or Palo Alto in recent seasons so until there’s a win that shows it, a top 20 ranking or higher will have to wait.

Key Players: Carnazzo returns a whole bunch of talented players on both sides of the line of scrimmage, six on offense and eight on defense. Two-sport star (basketball) Jack Powers, a quick-footed 6-foot-6, 260-pound defensive end with offers from Air Force and Fresno State, is the top returner. Two other highly-regarded D1 college level linemen return -- 6-foot-3, 250-pound offensive guard Spencer Seely, and 6-foot-2, 280-pound defensive tackle Hidely Manzur. Quarterback Jack Tardeiu returns, and the main rushing duties will fall on Marcus Washington, a 5-foot-11, 170-pound senior who rushed for 878 yards and eight TDs last season as a back-up.


CIF Southern Section Pac-Five Division perennial power

Head Coach: Kevin Rooney (266-104-5, all at Notre Dame)

First Game: Friday, Aug. 24 vs. Serra (Gardena). Not looking past Serra (despite how strong the Cavaliers look this season) is going to be difficult since the Knights are headed to Ireland the following week for their epic trip to play Arizona powerhouse Hamilton of Chandler.

Why This Ranking: After just missing out on a berth in the CIFSS Pac-Five playoffs due to coin flips, Notre Dame figures to be even closer to a return to prominence with eight starters back on offense and five on defense.

Key Players: Start with 2011-12 Cal-Hi Sports State Athlete of the Year Khalfani Muhammad, the CIF 100 and 200-meter dash state champ, at running back. Quarterback Kelly Hilinski also is returning along with four of the five offensive linemen, led by 6-foot-5, 290-pound LeRoy Tanoi. All-league linebacker J.J. Muno and all-league defensive back Nick Holland are the top returning honors candidates for the defense.


CIF Southern Section Inland Division quarterfinalist

Head Coach: Kurt Bruich

First Game: Friday, Aug. 31 at Dominguez (Compton). The Wildcats hosted the Dons in their season opener last year and picked up a 30-0 victory.

Why This Ranking: REV won 11 games in a row before a 9-6 loss to Rancho Cucamonga in the CIF-SS Inland Division quarterfinals and there are 12 returning starters.

Key Players: Senior Kylie Fitts is the team's top returning tackler and has already committed to USC after leading the team in sacks last year. He was first team All-State underclass for defensive line. Daniel Gonzalez also returns to the secondary after tying for a team-best five interceptions. The defense, which may be better this year, didn't allow more than 15 points in any game and returns seven starters.


CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division II quarterfinalist

Head Coach: Tony Franks

First Game: Friday, Aug. 24 vs. East Union (Manteca). A trip to play state No. 1 De La Salle and matchups against Central Catholic of Modesto and Lincoln of Stockton also highlight the regular season schedule.

Why This Ranking: Always one of the best-coached teams in the state, the Rams have returning experience and talent at the skill positions. They also had strong JV and frosh teams last season and seem to always have the edge in recent matchups against crosstown rival Lincoln. If Lincoln is in the preseason state rankings due to its returning players, then St. Mary’s can’t be too far behind.

Key Players: Junior quarterback Kaleb Parrish saw extensive action as a sophomore and ended up with more than 800 yards of combined offense. Junior receiver Brian Pacsqual was an impact player as well. Among seniors, Na'im McGee is the top returnee as a safety with 134 tackles already to his credit. Receiver Kaodi Dike has some college offers while linebacker Spencer Whyte is back with 77 tackles.

31. SERRA (SAN MATEO) 11-2

CIF Central Coast Section Division I champions

Head Coach: Patrick Walsh (78-46-1 in 12th season)

First Game: Friday, Aug. 31 at Wilcox (Santa Clara). After the Padres open with Wilcox they play their perennial game with Alameda Encinal and then make a trip to what should be a very tough Buhach Colony of Atwater.

Why This Ranking: Coming off the best season in school history (11 wins for the first-time ever), this year’s Padres come into the season with high expectations, something Walsh hopes won’t get them “soft and entitled.” Despite losing their top running back and quarterback, they still return three starters on offense, and eight starters on what should be a very solid defense.

Key Players: After having the No. 2 role last season when he gained 1,344 with 12 TDs, three-year varsity starter Eric Redwood will be the workhorse in the powerful running game. Quarterback is a question mark with last year’s back-ups, seniors Zach Kazakoff and Greg Newbeck, still fighting for the job. Serra hasn’t thrown much in the past, but there are some returning wide receivers that could give Walsh more options.

32. LOMPOC 14-0

CIF Southern Section Northwest Division champion

Head Coach: Andrew Jones (25-3 after two seasons)

First Game: Friday, Aug. 24 vs. Arroyo Grande. Last year’s 38-28 triumph over an Eagles’ team that later won the CIFSS Western Division title sparked the Braves to their unbeaten season.

Why This Ranking: There are 13 returning starters from last year when Lompoc was going for the CIF Division III bowl game. After not getting the vote that went for Washington of Easton (also unbeaten), the Braves will be shooting for a bid in Division II this season. They have the players to get that done, but it’s not going to be as easy as when their league was in the Northwest Division instead of the Western Division.

Key Players: Running back Lavon Coleman, committed to Washington, is one of the state’s top players at his position. Among those also returning is All-State underclass lineman Ainuu Taua, All-State underclass kicker Jose Morales and All-CIFSS picks Willie Iabarra (LB) and Taylor Cornejo (RB/DB).


CIF Southern Section Northern Division semifinalist

Head Coach: Todd Therrien (fifth season)

First Game: Friday, Aug. 24 at Garfield (Los Angeles). The second game, at home against Corona Centennial, will be more of a true test.

Why This Ranking: The Seraphs are actually lower than they’ve started in recent years and this is due to a higher number of quality players lost to graduation than we’ve seen in many years.

Key Players: If new blockers come through in the offensive line, St. Bonnie could be very effective running the ball. Returning starter Zach Green is one of the best running backs in Southern California and has committed to Arizona. Three other honors candidates look like receiver/defensive back Paul Thompson, linebacker Patrick Kenney and lineman Garrett Schirber.


CIF Southern Section Pac-Five playoff qualifier

Head Coach: Mike Christensen (second season)

First Game: Thursday, Aug. 23 vs. Harvard-Westlake (North Hollywood). That first game may not be much of a challenge, but the Cubs will have one later in September against St. John Bosco of Bellflower.

Why This Ranking: It was a step in the right direction in Christensen’s first season and the possibilities for this season look promising, particularly on defense where most of last year’s starters are back.

Key Players: Cameron Walker is one of the top cover corners in the state and is a returning All-State underclass choice. Another Division I college recruit is Coleman Shelton (6-4, 280) of the defensive line. The best of the offense should be running back Wyatt Bradford, receiver Grant Luna and tight end Jack Neuheisel.


CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division I runner-up

Head Coach: Joe Cattolico (50-16 in six seasons)

First Game: Friday, Aug. 24 vs. Rocklin. The Eagles also play Lincoln of Stockton and Nevada Union in hard-to-miss early-season matchups.

Why This Ranking: Cattolico's Eagles have won at least 10 games in four of the last five years, including last year’s trip to the section final and the section championship in 2010. A number of top players – such as quarterback Cody Demps, running back Mark Jenkins and huge tackle Aric Armstead – have graduated, but some of the younger players look ready to step up.

Key Players: Isaiah Saunders will look for an increased role in the backfield after rushing for 625 yards and 13 touchdowns. Pleasant Grove also had two players earn all-state sophomore status – RB/DB Brandon Lewis and WR/DB Wyatt Demps. Defensive lineman Nick Terry and linebacker Tyree Hanson are both back as well after they tied for the team lead with 77 tackles.


CIF North Coast Section Division III runner-up

Head Coach: Mazi Moayed (25-2 in third season)

First Game: Friday, Aug. 24 in Orinda at Miramonte. Tougher tests will come in the second game against St. Ignatius of San Francisco and then a trip to play Vacaville (a team the Wildcats beat 33-29 last season).

Why This Ranking: Going into last year’s playoffs, the Wildcats were the leading contender for the CIF D3 North bowl game berth until they faltered in a loss to Campolindo. Moayed brings back an even better team, led by Cal-bound quarterback Jared Goff. Seven offensive regulars and four on defense in all will be back.

Key Players: Goff will be hard-pressed to best his Redwood Empire records of 3,240 yards and 44 touchdowns from last season, but last year he was splitting time the first two games. Gunnar Graham, a 6-foot-6, 280-pound lineman with multiple college offers will go both ways this season after only playing offense last year. Goff also will have one of his favorite receivers back, scrappy Nick Devere. Athletic junior Andrew Celis will play multiple positions while running back Akil Terry will be the top rusher. A key defensive returner that anchors the linebacking corps is 6-foot-1, 200-pound Alex Poksay.


CIF San Diego Section Division III champion

Head Coach: Sean Doyle

First Game: Friday, Aug. 31 at Steele Canyon (Spring Valley). The Dons opened 2011 with a 27-7 win at home over the Cougars.

Why This Ranking: For the fifth year in a row, Cathedral Catholic captured the Division III section championship and should defend that title with nine returning starters (including the quarterback) and newcomers from a JV squad that went 8-2.

Key Players: Quarterback Garrett Bogart is one of four returning offensive starters as he passed for 1,805 yards and 19 touchdowns. Junior Kyle Davis returns along the defensive line after 72 tackles and 7.5 sacks last season while linebacker Toshaun Poumele had a second-best 117 tackles and should lead the team in tackles this year.


CIF Southern Section Central Division champion

Head Coach: Pete Duffy (57-16 in seven seasons)

First Game: Friday, Aug. 24 vs. Elsinore (Wildomar). The overall schedule also is a bit tougher, but not due to scheduling. It’s more due to realignment since J.W. North of Riverside is moving into the Inland Valley League from the Big VIII League.

Why This Ranking: The Mustangs won every game last season by at least 14 points and return nine players to go along with newcomers from a 9-1 JV squad. Transfers also should help.

Key Players: Senior tackle Poasi Moala (6-5, 275) and senior receiver Demorea Stringfellow are both big-time returners on the offensive side of the ball as they have both already committed to the University of Washington. Linebacker Dimone Backus, a three-year starter at West Valley of Hemet, could be an impact transfer who leads the defense.


CIF North Coast Section Division I quarterfinals

Head Coach: George Zuber (52-18 in seventh season)

First Game: Friday, Aug. 24 at home against Reed of Reno, Nev. With the addition of a team to the Mission Valley Athletic League, coupled with the Colts possibly having one of their best teams ever, a decision was made and granted for Logan to become independent. Games against San Ramon Valley and Del Oro will therefore further strengthen the schedule.

Why This Ranking: The Colts are loaded and better prepared to defend the pass, something that hurt them in a 28-14 loss to San Ramon Valley in last year’s playoffs. Offensively, they have five returning starters, including the starting backfield, and a transfer that started last year at his previous school. The offensive line is a question mark but the defense returns nine starters, including the entire linebacking corps.

Key Players: Two-way standout and Northwestern-committed Warren Miles-Long leads the returners. Last year he rushed for 1,094 yards and 16 TDs. Quarterback Jeffrey Prothro is back after passing for 1,154 yards and 16 TDs, and rushing for 632 yards and three scores as a junior. Two newcomers moving up from JV that could have a huge impact are Karsten Webbington and Scott Kao. Webbington, a medalist at this year’s State Meet, runs a 4.37 in the 40.

Note: Check back for additional Cal-Hi Sports preseason rankings over the upcoming week, including outlooks for each CIF regional bowl game division in the north and south. If you check back and do not see Cal-Hi Sports content, check our twitter page @CalHiSports or go to our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/CalHiSportscom/162897664162 for updates. For corrections or comments, email Mark.Tennis@espn.com or markjtennis@gmail.com.